Outlook Columbus on how the Gay Games changed him, and how they can change Ohio, and the world.
Play to Win Equality
The Gay Games is coming to Cleveland-Akron in 2014. The Gay Games is the largest sporting event in the world. It’s even larger than the Olympics because of its policy of inclusion.
I have participated in two Gay Games. I competed in the marathon 1994 in New York and in the triathlon in 2002 in Sydney. Each of those events had a profound effect on me in very different ways.
In 1994, I was still in the process of coming out. The Gay Games, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, was a formative event. I was planning to enter law school in the fall of that year, and I had not yet decided whether I would be “out” at school. The Gay Games was empowering to me – the number and quality of athletes, the seemingly endless number of spectators and the Stonewall history. All of that led me – or gave me the strength – months later to enter law school as an openly gay man. I took classes, like Sexual Orientation and the Law, that I might not have taken if I were afraid of being outed; I got involved in our school and city LGBT lawyers organizations; I was elected the first openly LGBT President of the Student Bar Association at my law school. In many ways, the courage I gained from participating in the Gay Games shaped my law school experience.
Eight years later, I competed in the Gay Games in Sydney. This event was less than a year after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Since that time, I had been feeling disconnected from my work as a commercial litigator and wondering how my career would evolve given my discontent. While in Sydney, I recommitted myself to LGBT issues that I had slowly moved away from while a busy associate at a large law firm. I went back and took on several pro bono cases representing LGBT people and joined the Board of the local LGBT lawyers organization, work that ultimately led me to Equality Ohio.
Each time, participating in the Gay Games changed me, for the better, I believe.
Imagine the change that the Gay Games will bring to over 13,000 participating athletes and artists. Imagine the change that the Gay Games will bring to tens of thousands of spectators. Imagine the impact the Gay Games will have on the teenager in Ohio struggling with his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Imagine the impact the Gay Games will have on the person in Ohio who has grown up believing the stereotype that gay men in particular are not good athletes – if that stereotype is wrong, what else is wrong with what they believe about LGBT people?
The Gay Games has the power to change individuals, and it is an opportunity to change the state. Ohio is ranked near last in the country in rights granted statewide to the LGBT community. The Gay Games has generally occurred in places that lead on LGBT rights, like San Francisco and Amsterdam, so this is somewhat uncharted territory. I strongly believe that the LGBT community in Ohio, including Equality Ohio, can use the Gay Games to advance the goal of full equality and inclusion.
How do we maximize the social and political impact of the Gay Games? I think first that Equality Ohio, Human Rights Campaign, Stonewall Democrats and similar groups need to be supportive of and involved in the planning of the Gay Games. We should include events in the cultural festival that will reach out to people throughout Ohio, to try to garner more support for pro-equality laws and policies. We should invite political, social and religious leaders that may not be currently supportive to see the power and beauty of the LGBT community.
Next, we should repeatedly emphasize that the business community will benefit from the Gay Games to the tune of $85 million. That will also be a windfall for local governments and the state government through various taxes. This event will make a statement about the spending power of the LGBT community in Ohio. In addition, if the Gay Games is successful, Ohio could attract other large LGBT events that will bring revenue and jobs to Ohio. Businesses and governments should in turn be supportive of the LGBT community as we seek the full spectrum of equal rights.
Third, we should make sure that the human stories of the athletes, artists and other participants be told around the state. Each Gay Games has heroes and average folks that defy stereotypes and amaze people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Finally, the Gay Games should continue its spirit of inclusion. We should welcome and respect non-LGBT athletes, artists and spectators. We should reach out to communities beyond urban Cleveland and Akron and invite broad participation from people throughout Ohio.
We need to think early on, creatively and strategically, about how the Gay Games can make Ohio a better place for the LGBT community. And we need to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to change the hearts and minds of people throughout Ohio.
The Gay Games has the power to change people. It changed me. Will it change you? Will it change Ohio? I believe it can and will.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.